Peter and Paul Fortress in St. Petersburg

Thursday, 12 January 2023 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Museums, Exhibitions, UNESCO World Heritage
Reading Time:  4 minutes

© Andrew Shiva/cc-by-sa-4.0

© Andrew Shiva/cc-by-sa-4.0

The Peter and Paul Fortress is the original citadel of St. Petersburg, Russia, founded by Peter the Great in 1703 and built to Domenico Trezzini‘s designs from 1706 to 1740 as a star fortress. Between the first half of the 1700s and early 1920s it served as a prison for political criminals. It has been a museum since 1924. Today it has been adapted as the central and most important part of the State Museum of Saint Petersburg History. The museum has gradually become virtually the sole owner of the fortress building, except the structure occupied by the Saint Petersburg Mint (Monetniy Dvor). The fortress contains several notable buildings clustered around the Peter and Paul Cathedral (1712–1733), which has a 122.5 m (402 ft) bell-tower (the tallest in the city centre) and a gilded angel-topped cupola. Other structures inside the fortress include the still functioning Saint Petersburg Mint building (constructed to Antonio Porta’s designs under Emperor Paul), the Trubetskoy Bastion with its grim prison cells, and the city museum.

The fortress was established by Peter the Great on May 16 (Old Style; henceforth “(O.S.)”; May 27 by the Gregorian Calendar) 1703 on small Hare Island by the north bank of the Neva River, the last upstream island of the Neva delta. From around 1720, the fort served as a base for the city garrison and also as a prison for high-ranking or political prisoners. The Trubetskoy Bastion, rebuilt in the 1870s, became the main prison block. The first person to escape from the fortress prison was the anarchist Prince Peter Kropotkin in 1876.

© Alex 'Florstein' Fedorov/cc-by-sa-4.0 © Dmitry A. Mottl/cc-by-sa-3.0 © flickr.com - michael clarke stuff/cc-by-sa-2.0 © flickr.com - Dennis Jarvis/cc-by-sa-2.0 © flickr.com - Dennis Jarvis/cc-by-sa-2.0 © Andrew Shiva/cc-by-sa-4.0
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© flickr.com - michael clarke stuff/cc-by-sa-2.0
In the years before and after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution, Peter and Paul Fortress was portrayed by Bolshevik propaganda as a hellish, torturous place, where thousands of prisoners suffered endlessly in filthy, cramped, and grossly overcrowded dungeons amid frequent torture and malnutrition. Such legends had the effect of turning the prison into a symbol of government oppression in the minds of the common folk. In reality, conditions in the fortress were far less brutal than believed; no more than one hundred prisoners were ever kept in the prison at a time, and most prisoners had access to such luxuries as tobacco, writing paper, and literature (including subversive books such as Karl Marx’s Das Kapital).

Despite their ultimate falsehood, stories about the prison were vital to the spread of Bolshevik revolutionary sentiment. The legends served to portray the government as cruel and indiscriminate in the administration of justice, helping to turn the common mind against Tsarist rule. Many inmates, after being released, wrote chilling and increasingly exaggerated accounts of life there that solidified the structure’s horrible image in the public mind and pushed the people further towards dissent. Writers often purposely exaggerated their experiences to garner more hatred for the government; as writer and former Peter and Paul inmate Maksim Gorky would later state, “Every Russian who had ever sat in jail as a ‘political’ prisoner considered it his holy duty to bestow on Russia his memoirs of how he had suffered.”

Read more on Wikipedia Peter and Paul Fortress (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State - Weather report by weather.com - Global Passport Power Rank - Travel Risk Map - Democracy Index - GDP according to IMF, UN, and World Bank - Global Competitiveness Report - Corruption Perceptions Index - Press Freedom Index - World Justice Project - Rule of Law Index - UN Human Development Index - Global Peace Index - Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Index). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.




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